Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The Simple-minded Murderer (1982) ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 10th March, 2021

In rural Sweden between the Wars a skinny simpleton, Sven (Stellan Skarsgard), faces daily abuse and humiliation because of his “idiot” condition until he is befriended by a kindly family whose daughter (Maria Johansson) cannot walk. She sees the kindness locked inside the tortured soul. Sven’s main tormentor is the arrogant bully of a factory manager, who derives pleasure from making his own wife cry and loves to remind people of their lower place in the pecking order. From the film’s title and the opening sequence in which Sven is seen driving into the woods in the manager’s posh car one knows that things must turn out badly — but what will drive Sven over the edge finally? Skarsgard’s fine performance certainly keeps one gripped to the tale and the use of a recording of Verdi’s Requiem helps build the mood so one even accepts the winged angels that enter Sven’s troubled mind and therefore the narrative. As a portrait, too, of a society that has barely entered the 20th century Hans Alfredson’s movie is a remarkable look back to another age, deeply tragic in many ways but also beautiful.

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